Wrote this a few days ago… We’re on Day 5 now!
Today was our first day out working with our supplier, Mehera Shaw.
All in all it really went well. The first meeting with them really helped to establish trust. We were open and honest about why we’re doing what we’re doing, we demoed the platform for them, we answered their questions and we got to visit some of their suppliers, getting lots of great photos and videos. I’m excited to spend the next two days getting to know their systems, how they work together, how they measure things.
One of the things we knew was important for the pilot was to articulate more clearly how we would define the metrics associated with each supply chain: what metrics the suppliers wanted to measure, what the brands wanted to see, and what the consumer would engage with, all without being too overwhelming in terms of the demands on the supplier for information.
We’d done research on other standards out there, like Fair Trade standards, the HIGG index, GOTS, other worker surveys, asked brands what metrics were most important to them and asked suppliers what questions they consistently get asked.
People have asked us what is your position on standards, or more presumptively, what standards are you using? We’ve always said that we don’t intend to be a new standard. Rather we want brands and suppliers to use our platform to tell their story of social progress and impact, as authentically and transparently as possible. Then, by crowdsourcing third party reviews and triangulating data, we can check-in and make sure things are up-to-date and truthful.
This is opposed to the model out there now: a long list of standards that a brand sends to a supplier or a supplier signs up for through a certification program. They either self-report the information or have an auditor come and authenticate the long lists of paper work they’ve filled out. The whole process is miserable- I’ve been through it. No offense to fair trade or organic- I love the idea but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.
Then we did more research: We held a design workshop where we checked-in with consumers who we think would engage with our platform, to understand what they were looking for and what they actually found to be authentic. We’d thought through metrics in broad strokes but knew that once we got on the ground and tested it, things would change. We consistently reuse the lean model to test something and adapt quickly, then test again.
So we dove in.
Yesterday, over the course of a few hours our partner was incredibly kind and humored us by answering many investigative inquiry questions. We wanted to try and understand the systems they currently had in place, what was important to them to measure, what others were asking of them. Many of the questions they’d been asked by brands or a certification body were not a surprise. We’d definitely heard them before from brands seeking to work with the suppliers we’ve already enlisted on the JUST catalog.
But as we talked through everything with them, the one thing that really struck me is how complex this information sharing could be. It was an overwhelming moment when I looked down at the notes from the session. So many decision making points and information that had to be shared between a brand and a supplier, (Another reminder to consumers…the shirt on your back IS NOT simple to make). And then how do we scale this? How can we help them measure their capacity when there are so many different ways that a supplier might measure capacity? And efficiency; they use a logbook and an excel sheet and are doing efficiency for each worker, but do other suppliers do this in the same sophisticated way?
So now as we take a step back and think through how can we really get down to the nitty gritty of helping each stakeholder pick the questions they want to answer, we’re trying to make sure we stay true to our guns and focus not on the long lists, the standards and all the different ways we could help this supplier and that supplier, but rather on how we help the supply chain easily choose their own metrics and questions; how do we facilitate that RATHER than boiling the ocean. And to help prioritize that, we also want to keep in mind how and why each person uses the information:
- Why does the brand visit the supplier profile page?
- Why does the supplier want to list themselves?
- Why does the consumer visit again and again?
Today we demoed the system for them. Many of the questions we had loaded to establish basic info about them were very much in draft form but they were able to play with the system nonetheless and give us some feedback. One thing that stuck out in my mind was a reminder to keep the questions at a minimum one line each and try to focus on yes/no answers, but we definitely started to see the story we all want to tell.
In sum, we’re in the thick of it, and it can be hard to see the forest through the trees, but we’ll succeed ultimately because we have our vision in mind.